Sowing Seeds by Trisha Ashley
While the new books by this established author are wonderful reads, this older book is also an excellent glimpse into the world of a woman having to cope with difficult situations. Fran is an artist who lives in a small Welsh village, with a fascination for roses which she plants in her cottage garden. She has a daughter, Rosie, who is usually away at university. Her husband Mal is not Rosie’s father; Fran believes that her daughter is the product of a one night stand. One of her problems is that she is uncertain as to the attractive, distinctive young man’s identity having been drunk, on the rebound from her long term boyfriend, and acted out of character. Her beloved Ma has always supported her, as have her local friends. Her problems begin at Christmas, when Rosie demands to know about her father, Mal is being more distant, and Fran is being nagged by him about her weight. This novel is narrated by Fran, as she considers her friends, family members and life in the village, with the usual humour and brilliant characterisation which typifies Ashley’s books. Food, roses and so much more abound in this book which contains humour and romance, all from Fran’s point of view.
The book opens at Christmas, with Rosie at home and asking questions about who her father is, knowing that Mal did not appear on the scene until well after she was born. Indeed Rosie and Mal argue frequently, often about his attitude to Fran. Mal is frequently away for work, and while he is away she works hard at her illustrations and cartoons, and plants roses even beyond the boundaries of Mal’s regulated garden. The neighbours seem to resent her, and apparently report to Mal on her activities. She has her friends, including Nia, who is a potter, and Carrie who has teashop known for her wonderful cakes. Another friend is Rhodri, newly divorced and owner of a large house and estate called Plas Gwyn, which he is intending to open to the public and as an events venue. Nia decides to organise him, and they become involved in a bid to get a celebrity restoration gardener to come and sort out the gardens for a television series. It is an excellent plan, until Fran recognises the celebrity gardener, Gabriel Weston, as someone from her past. To add to her confusion, her ex boyfriend Tom seems determined to attract her attention, as well as invite Rosie to learn to surf. Mal, however, seems increasingly distant, and a tragedy forces her to review her thoughts about her marriage, Gabriel and everything else in her life.
This is an extremely lively and enjoyable book. Fran’s attempts to diet at her husband’s insistence forms a running joke in some ways, and his impossibly high standards make him thoroughly annoying. Fran’s thoughts and panics, highs and lows are really interesting and well depicted, and her life is punctuated with some realistic incidents. I always enjoy the way Ashley’s female lead characters tell their story, detail her friends and those who are difficult, and cope with challenges that would finish off other people. This is a very entertaining book, with underlying themes of marriage problems, past loves and village life. There is a lot of humour in this book, some of it quite dark, but all of it vivid. I recommend this book to Ashley’s fans, and would argue it should help make many more.